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Shelley Bassett

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Nothing is ever finished with perfectionism

Nothing is ever finished when you’re a perfectionist


February 1, 2019

I love creative projects, but sometimes it feels like nothing is ever finished. I've found some ways to make it a little bit easier.

The ever-changing cycle of creation is one of the reasons I love web development. There’s always something new to investigate, something different to try or something broken to fix. But being caught in a cycle where nothing is ever finished can be frustrating and leave you feeling like you’re chasing your tail, hopping from one unfinished mess to another.It’s not all hopeless though. For a long time, I’ve been focused on trying to finish things. I’ve tried setting deadlines and goals, making lists and asking people to keep me accountable. Nothing has worked, and my projects remain incomplete. Even at my job, it feels like an unending flow of unfinished projects, with never enough time to polish them.

When I unpacked why web development is important to me, the first thing I spoke about was being unfinished. It weighs so heavily on my mind that my development to-do lists are titled Things That Are Not Perfect. In no world is this a healthy mindset. And it was taking it’s toll. This doesn’t just apply to web technologies. I also feel it in my art. And I’m sure others have it in whichever disciplines they work in.

Perfectionism is often what get’s us stuck.

I’ve been trying to switch this idea of nothing is ever finished from something negative to something positive. And for the first time I think I can see some success. When it comes to fighting feelings of failure and unrefinement, here are a few things I’ve learnt. The battle isn’t easy, but there are things that help.

Goals Are Good, Sometimes

While aiming for perfection is proven to be terrible, there’s nothing wrong with aiming for betterment, and setting goals is important to achieving any task. I’m not yet ditching my lists of Things That Are Not Perfect, but I am less critical of them.

I set myself goals every year, and not all of them get achieved. This could mean several things. Am I aiming too high? Being too ambitious? Trying to achieve too much? The answer is probably yes on all accounts. I’m getting better at setting goals and writing my to-do lists. They’re at least mostly achievable now, and this really helps with the overwhelming feeling that I’ll never finish anything.

Step Back

I recently put a little bit more work into Coloretur. Nothing ground breaking, but it can now load extra swatches on each page, and there’s a contact form if something isn’t working right. Both of these were things I had planned to have available at launch. But that was months ago, and I really hadn’t done any work on it since.

But I needed the break. I had smashed out that website so fast that I was feeling tired and burnt out. All I could see were the flaws. I knew it wasn’t finished, but after making it live and posting about it on social media, no one else knew. I needed to step back and reassess what was going to be important to build going forward.

Taking a breather, even just a 5-minute walk, can really help re-prioritise the task we’re stuck on. It makes take a little more time, but ultimately, results in a far better end product.

Pick Your Battles

Given that I’ve just admitted to being outrageously ambitious, this point shouldn’t come as a surprise. You have to choose what’s worth it. To do this, you need to have an overall goal or direction. Know what you want.

I’ve taken to asking myself a few simple questions about every project that I work on. The most important being: Will this get me closer to my goals? If the answer isn’t a resounding yes, it doesn’t happen. You’ll end up working on fewer things, but they’ll be much more worthwhile.

Give It Time

Sometimes things have to be finished. There’s a client deadline, or a printing cutoff. But as much as I can, I now try and work some extra time into my deadlines. This is for me as much as those I do work for. I don’t like under-delivering, and a looming deadline that I’ve set too close will often result in late, sleepless nights. Any doctor will tell you this isn’t healthy.

Let It Be

This is where I struggle the most. At some point, you just have to accept it as done. Is it done? Not in your eyes. But will it function as intended? Will others like it? More than likely, it’s ready for release.

If you have tips for dealing with perfectionism and unfinished work, I’d love to hear them. Leave a comment below.

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